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Sarah MacDonald – Dumas Contracting Ltd.

Dumas GC helps improve workplace safety while strengthening client relationships

Growing up in Nova Scotia, Sarah MacDonald envisioned a legal career where she’d serve as a district attorney or Crown prosecutor—like the ones she saw on TV.

“It didn’t go that way at all,” she says.

In fact, her current work as general counsel for Dumas Contracting Ltd. is more “Journey to the Center of the Earth” than a journey to the center of a courtroom as she manages legal affairs for the mining contracting company.

Sarah MacDonald | General Counsel | Dumas Contracting Ltd.

Sarah MacDonald | General Counsel | Dumas Contracting Ltd.

Since joining Dumas in February 2019, MacDonald has helped the company promote worker safety and community improvements throughout North America. As Dumas’ clients extract ore and precious metals in their operations, she also helps ensure the company will be part of new mining operations, too.

“We have clients that have become partners because we focus on building strong relationships,” MacDonald says. “We maintain these relationships because we follow through on the promises we make to our clients.”

Support and safety

Founded in 1994, Ontario-based Dumas has grown from a French Canadian-owned boutique mining contractor to a partner with major mining companies throughout Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Dumas’ services include all aspects of constructing and operating an underground mine, MacDonald says, such as shaft sinking, mine development, mine construction and vertical mechanized raise mining.  These support underground mining operations by providing access to explore and extract ore and precious metals. Dumas also builds below-ground maintenance facilities to service trucks and equipment without bringing them to the surface. When a mining company shuts down an operation, Dumas helps with the decommissioning.

The company also performs an array of technical and engineering services, MacDonald says, such as feasibility studies and infrastructure innovation.

“Underground conditions and jurisdictions vary,” she adds. “So, we have to develop different designs and customizations to get where we need to be for the mining company owner to maximize value through safe, efficient and effective mining practices.”

Sarah MacDonald | General Counsel | Dumas Contracting Ltd.

Dumas also emphasizes worker safety as it works with companies such as Torex Gold at the El Limón mine in Guerrero, a southern Mexican state on the Pacific Coast.

Dumas and Torex have been working together there since 2014. MacDonald’s legal support includes managing the service agreements and contracts while minimizing risk for the operations. Dumas’ operations at El Limón recently celebrated five years without a lost time incident due to worker injuries.

MacDonald says it’s crucial to train and develop the skills of the local workforce in areas such as operating and maintaining heavy equipment, installing ground support and maneuvering in the underground mine environment because it promotes safety, leadership and productivity.

“We’re making sure people are safe,” she says. “We bring the people in and ensure training plans are set and customized to the needs of each worker.”

Deep partnerships

MacDonald helps build long-term relationships with Dumas’ clients by collaborating with Cameron Carter, the vice president of technical services and business development.

Carter manages the proposal process, and when it comes to negotiating contracts, MacDonald provides her expertise while the two work with finance and project management teams.

In her efforts, MacDonald is also able to establish a relationship—if one doesn’t already exist—with the client’s attorney. She’s friendly but direct because even as they discuss risk management, indemnification and other contract clauses and areas, both parties understand there is mutual success that can be shared.

Sarah MacDonald | General Counsel | Dumas Contracting Ltd.

The success of that approach is evident in Dumas’ partnerships with companies including HudBay Minerals Inc. and Pan American Silver Corp., and the support they provide for those companies’ operations in Manitoba, Canada, and Mexico.

“It’s a small industry, so they will remember that we delivered on what we promised,” MacDonald says. “When we’re commercially aligned with our clients, we are focused on the same goals, we have the same interests, and we work together within an integrated team approach that looks at ‘project risk’, not ‘contractor vs. client risk.’”

MacDonald also plays a crucial role in helping Dumas’ employees stay secure. She helps set up training that includes consultants who advise on security issues outside the mining areas and how to mitigate any present or potential risks.

“In the mining industry, a successful business is one that can deal with the ever-changing landscape and diversity of projects through risk awareness, communication and training,” MacDonald says.

A business partner

Before earning her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of New Brunswick in 2007, MacDonald earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Dalhousie University in 2004. She began her legal career as an articling clerk—which resembles a legal apprenticeship—under the direction of attorneys at the Saint John, New Brunswick, firm of Cox & Palmer.

In July 2008, MacDonald moved to the Greater Toronto area to join Keyser Mason Ball LLP in Mississauga, Ontario, as a corporate-commercial lawyer. Corporate law appealed to her because, as opposed to litigation, she wanted to provide win-win solutions, but after about a decade, she was ready for new challenges.

Sarah MacDonald | General Counsel | Dumas Contracting Ltd.

Though she didn’t know much about legal affairs around mining and construction, when MacDonald was recruited to join Dumas, she says coming in-house also meant she didn’t have to worry about billable hours and collecting from clients.

“I came from a smaller regional firm,” she says. “I knew how to run a deal by myself and knew how to work with owner-operators directly.”

She joined Dumas as senior legal counsel and was named general counsel in December 2021.

“I want to be involved in business decisions and strategic initiatives that go beyond just being a lawyer,” MacDonald says. “I work closely with our leadership, and we look after our people. Our people set us apart.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer III 2023 Edition here.

Published on: July 7, 2023

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